Over the years that The Arcadia Institute has worked with various summer camps in the Kalamazoo area, we have helped camp staff to make accommodations for children with disabilities that benefit all of the campers. The staff have also become more creative in making accommodations that benefit all campers. Several years ago, Jenny Metz Brenneman, the Camp Director at the Kalamazoo Nature Center made an interesting observation. As parents of children with disabilities would complete registration forms they would often include lengthy letters about all of a child's challenges and limitation that need accommodations; however, what works the best for camp staff to support a camper is knowing the children's strengths, interests and what they want to get from the camp experience. She asked that we develop a handout for parents that describes what information she really needs to make camp a successful experience for all children.
So we created the handout called Successful camp experience handout_update2013. We have distributed this handout through camps, during various presentations and camp staff training sessions. In addition, we helped The Nature Center develop welcoming language on their camp web page that other camps have now adopted for their camp information.
"Everyone Is Welcome! We believe that all kids can participate in our program. We ask parents to be honest on the health forms about their child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being and anything else our staff should know to help their child succeed in our program. Director Jenny may contact you to discuss how we can adapt camp to provide a safe and successful environment for all children."
Jenny has reported that with these two things along with consistent communication with parents has helped her really know campers before they arrive the first morning. Knowing a child's strengths and interests is critical to assist camp staff to know how to quickly redirect a child before issues arise. Knowing situations in which a child might be uncomfortable is good, but knowing what things the child enjoys that helps them feel at ease is better.
Here's to all campers having a blast at camp!